NICOSIA (AFP) - Turkish Cypriot clubs are set to rejoin the Cyprus Football Association, ending a half-century absence that has seen them excluded from international competition, an official in Europe's governing body UEFA was quoted as saying on Saturday.
The deal was brokered by UEFA and world governing body FIFA, and was formally put to the Turkish Cypriots' unrecognised breakaway federation on December 3, UEFA Vice Chairman Marios Lefkaritis told Cyprus sports daily Sportday.
"The Turkish Cypriots said yes to FIFA and UEFA. In other words, they accepted the proposal which we had also agreed to," said Lefkaritis, who is himself Greek Cypriot and honorary chairman of the Cyprus FA.
"The Turkish Cypriots have also expressed some concerns which will be discussed in January."
Lefkaritis said that if FIFA and the Cyprus FA are able to satisfy the Turkish Cypriot concerns at their meeting at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on January 12, Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot teams could be playing one and another again as early as next season.
Turkish Cypriot clubs broke away to form their own Cyprus Turkish Football Federation when communal violence erupted on the Mediterranean island in 1955 while it was still under British colonial rule.
When the island won independence in 1960, it was the Greek Cypriots clubs still in the Cyprus FA that won recognition as members of UEFA and FIFA and Turkish Cypriot clubs have since been excluded from all international competition.
There have been a number of efforts over the years by clubs from other European countries to organise friendlies against Turkish Cypriot teams.
But they have all either been cancelled in the face of Cyprus FA protests or led to UEFA sanctions against the club taking part.
In July last year, English League One side Luton Town cancelled a planned friendly against the 2007 Turkish Cypriot champions Cetinkaya after protests through the English FA.
Under the deal put forward by UEFA and FIFA, the Cyprus FA would be the governing body for all football on the island, including in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.
Turkish Cypriots would be represented on the Cyprus FA's committees, including on its referees committee.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkey invaded the island's northern third in response to a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at union with Greece.
Turkish Cypriots declared a breakaway state in the north in 1983 but it is recognised only by Ankara.
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